There are lots of people out there that like rules because they give them a sort of blueprint to follow if they want to be successful. They provide guidance about how to navigate certain situations and experiences that'll end in the best-possible result. Maybe that's why some people like to tout so-called relationship "rules," which give couples advice on some do's and don't's that'll make a relationship function more smoothly (and often — ideally — healthily). But some rules were made to be broken, as the saying goes, and there are some common relationship "rules" that actually tend to lead to divorce, which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you were hoping they'd do when you took the advice and decided to follow the rules — you thought they'd make your relationship stronger and longer-lasting. But sometimes you need to change up what you think you know.
"Relationships are living and changing beings that need care and new tools over the span of a relationship," Rose Lawrence, LPCC, LCPC, a psychotherapist and the owner of Mind Balance tells Romper by email. "Expecting to never get help or to never need to learn new tools is unrealistic for a relationship of any kind to succeed long-term."
So while you might think that these relationship rules are definitely a good idea, they might not actually be helping your relationship like you think that they are.
1. Letting Your Partner Look Through Your Phone Or Social Media Accounts
Some couples think that letting their partner peruse their social media accounts or scroll through their text messages whenever they'd like is a show of trust between them and a good thing for their relationship. But Patrick Schultz, MA, LPC, NCC, a licensed professional counselor, tells Romper in an email exchange that this is an example of a violation of privacy. If you and your partner allow each other to violate the other's privacy, that's probably not actually a good thing, long-term.
2. Splitting Everything Exactly Evenly
Though you might think that divvying up the chores and other responsibilities is a great idea and definitely a relationship rule you should follow, you might be surprised to learn that it actually might not be that great for your relationship. "When partners decide to divide household chores and financial responsibilities clear down the middle it can at first seem like a perfect and simple compromise," David F. Khalili, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Romper by email. "However this can often cause partners to keep a mental spreadsheet which then leads them to be on the lookout that everything is fair and equal. While trying to find equity in chores and financial obligations can be good for a relationship and running a house, making sure that everything is exactly even can cause a strain on the relationship."
3. Thinking That Marriage Is Supposed To Be Easy If You're With The Right Person
Sometimes people think that marriage is supposed to be easy and you shouldn't have to work at things as long as you're with the right person, but that's not really true. Relationships — all relationships — take work. And thinking that yours shouldn't isn't good.
"It can actually make trust worse in marriages, decreases communication, increases areas for tension and potential fights to arise, and also decreases the openness of marriages in terms of communication and sharing," Schultz says.
4. Keeping Sex The Same
Yes, learning what your partner likes in bed is good, but thinking you have it all figured out and sticking to that is where you can get into a bit of a rut.
"During the first phase of the relationship the couple often gets a thrill from exploring each other, finding out what the other person likes and developing a mastery of turning their partner on and getting them off," Khalili says. "While this is great for connecting and pleasing each other, what can often happen is the couple develops a 'sexual script' that each person has memorized and they follow their role to the very end."
Khalili explains that this then can actually lead to you both feeling like you're not connecting in the same way, which isn't good. "This becomes an issue because it can often feel robotic and emotionally disconnected, like a less giggly version of Twister," he adds. That's probably not what you were going for.
5. Only Sharing Certain Information With Your Partner
Schultz says that this is like a "leave work at work" sort of setup and while some people think that it's good for their relationship to do this, it again can actually make communication more closed off between the two of you. You want more effective communication, not less.
6. Rules About Money
"Any inflexible rule about money can possibly strain a relationship, especially if the rule is 'we don’t talk about money' or 'we always talk about money,'" Khalili says. "Money can become a wedge in between the partners causing them to lose connection and intimacy. Try to be flexible when talking about money, such as adapting your budget when need be, or making a money talk less 'doom-and-gloom' by cooking a nice meal together before having a budget talk. A lot of couples find it helpful to reserve their money talks when they go to couples therapy or with a financial planner."
Finances and financial issues can be stressful and emotionally-charged, so while avoiding the discussion entirely can certainly cause problems, talking about it all the time and letting it get in between the two of you can likewise be problematic. More flexibility or finding a specific solution that works for the two of you might be a better bet.
7. Looking Out For Yourself In Your Relationship
Looking out for yourself — in a relationship or not — can be important, of course, but doing it at the expense of your relationship and your partner probably isn't going to result in the most successful of relationships, long-term. Schultz says that this can make things more tense, which might make you more likely to argue.
"Getting the support of a couples counselor before even getting married can be a good place to start," Schultz says. "The therapist can help you learn how to develop common goals, communicate effectively, and build a solid foundation so the above 'rules' don't ruin the relationship. Keep communication open at all times with your partner, don't hold things back because you feel as if your partner cant handle it. Make time for yourself in the relationship, but also make time for just you and your partner."
There are some rules that you just might not want to follow.
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